Read a book twice?

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never read the same book twice.

My favourite films I can watch time and time again. I’ve seen The Shawshank Redemption at least six times, Pulp Fiction about the same. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Star Trek or Star Wars films – sci-fi geek, sci-fi geek 🙂

I can watch some television programmes over and over and enjoy them more each time. I’ve seen every episode of The West Wing at least three times. (I do love that programme <3)

So why haven’t I read the same book twice?

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed reading books. Some books the characters and stories are with me months, years after I’ve finished reading. I think I like reading sequels and series of books because the same characters appear and they are like a comfortable pair of shoes. You just slip them back on and enjoy the new adventure.

DI Tom Thorne, created by Mark Billingham. The Camel Club stories by David Baldacci, Dexter by Jeff Lindsay are all books about the same characters. I’ve enjoyed each one, but never felt the calling to re-read them.

This is my year of the challenge. Reading, writing and dietary. So I’m going to read a book for the second time … for the first time. If you get my drift. I’ve narrowed it down to about half a dozen and I’m going to pick one later in the year and read it again. Just because I can.

Do you read the same book more than once? Or do you read them one time and give them to charity or put them on the bookcase never to be opened again?

Thanks for reading.

About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
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51 Responses to Read a book twice?

  1. Donna Brown says:

    I love to read some books over and over again. Other books, not so much. I think if its a good story and I can relate to it, then returning to a good book is like coming home.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Donna. That does sound good. I don’t know why I haven’t read a book twice yet. I should treat it like any other form of entertainment. If it is good then why not?

  2. Maxi says:

    There are certain books I’ve read several times; some are ‘Classics’, and some are contemporary. There are always a tonne of books that I want to read, with plenty of them on TBR pile, but as the previous comment said, sometimes you just want to be assured of feeling comfy and comforted with a book that you know and love.

    Good luck in all your quests!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Maxi. I haven’t read many classics so I should start with reading some of them once!

      That’s why I like to watch The West Wing. It is the familiarity of the characters and the story. Each time I spot something that I didn’t see the previous time. I’m getting sold on this idea of reading books more than once. 🙂

  3. I only read my favourite books again, and then only after a very long time (long enough to forget the details). Usually reading a book once is enough for me. 🙂
    Best wishes!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Belle. I agree with some books once is enough! There are a few that I wouldn’t mind reading again so I just need to take the plunge. You’d think when you reach my age I would have wanted to read a book again. 🙂

  4. I am on the same page as you with series – I love them. I always hate to say goodbye to characters I like when a book ends. A series allows me to continue to watch them grow and change.
    In answer to your question, the books I really like usually are read three times (yes three) and I’ve done it for years, The first time is a speed read to find out what happens, the second is to enjoy every tasty morsel of detail. The third read (If the book is good enough) is about studying the structure and characterization which made me love it to begin with and hopefully come away having learned something to assist with my own writing.

  5. djpaterson says:

    I have read The Stand by Stephen King four times (I think) over the last twenty five years, or so. And the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson, twice. Not sure if and when I’ll read either of these again, though as I seem to have an increasing number of books in the TBR pile, which I guess wasn’t the case when I picked The Stand up the last time.

    • Pete Denton says:

      I think that’s my problem. I have a list of TBR in high twenties on my Kindle and a bookcase of others. I’ve only been reading 12 books a year, until this year, so I never have the time to re-read something. I’m definitely doing it now. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I used to read books and give them away. I once hit a bad spot of having nothing to read and decided to re-read some Dick Francis books I had on my shelves. It was like sitting down with old friends and I found things I’d missed first time round (or forgotten). Since then I’ve found I can happily re-read my favourite authors like Harlen Coben, Terry Pratchett or Sue Grafton. Sometimes I’ll have a week of oldies before starting a new book. The older I get, the more I forget so it’s almost like starting a new book anyway.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Hahaha, that’s the problem with giving all your books away 🙂

      There are some good books that I read years ago. I like the idea of knowing some details but re-reading to reacquaint myself with the story and the characters. Thanks, David.

  7. robincoyle says:

    You haven’t felt compelled to read a book twice because you haven’t read mine! 🙂

    All jokes aside, I’ve read only some classics (To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, etc.) more than once.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Hi, Robin. That must be it. In Search of Beef Stroganoff has to be the answer!

      I struggled to read To Kill A Mocking Bird. I enjoyed it, but found the style of writing slowed my reading. And I’m not a fast reader at the best of times.

      • robincoyle says:

        Happy to be the answer.

        The words in To Kill a Mockingbird flew off the page for me. Interesting how what works for one doesn’t always work for another.

  8. I have but very, very rarely. It has to be really special or I had to have read it a LONG time ago if I’m going to read it again. There are too many other books out there that I haven’t read to spend my time re-reading.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Hi, Sharon. I agree. My TBR pile on my kindle is 17 and I have another 15 samples that I might download the full book. That’s 25 months of reading at my previous pace and at least 12 month at my current pace. WHEN would I have the time 🙂

      There are a few I wouldn’t mind reading again so the odd one maybe.

  9. There are only a few books I’ve read more than once for the fun of it, my absolute favs like “Gone with the Wind”, “A Knight in Shining Armor”, “Alice in Wonderland”, and Poe stories. I hate watching repeats on TV, so I’m picky. 🙂

    And since I homeschool my 16-year-old, I reread some of the classics as he does, so I can cook up some killer quizzes. It’s funny, I HATED “Great Expectations” when I had to read it in my HS class, but I really enjoyed during the second read (While evil teacher-mom me made my son read it)

  10. EllaDee says:

    As a teenager when it was impossible for the flow of books to keep up with amount of time I spent reading, I read anything I could get my hands on, and often twice.

    My favourite books I’ve read (at least) twice which spring to mind are:
    Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte, Sons & Lovers – DH Lawrence, Papillon (+ Banco) – Henri Charriere

    On my to be re-read list are: A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth, The Hobbit & the LOR trilogy – JRR Tolkien & Three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog) JK Jerome

    All of which I’d take with me if I were to be stranded on a desert island.

    Oddly, I’m not big on re-watching movies, or particularly TV shows but we have a collection of DVDs for a rainy day. My tried and true favourite is The Magnificent Seven.

    Pete, hopefully you’ll keep up your reading habit after the year, and so you’ll have plenty of time to read and re-read 🙂

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, EllaDee.

      LOTR is another series on my to-read list. I do plan on keeping up the reading habit. I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve read this year and maybe will re-read the odd one from the eclectic reading challenge.

  11. I’ve never read a book twice, Pete. But I’ve watched several movies two or three times–except “Forest Gump,” which I’ve seen five or six times!!

    • Pete Denton says:

      I’m in good company then, Joyce. 🙂

      I did like Forest Gump. It’s been a long time since I saw it. I might have to watch out for it being on TV.

  12. I have read quite a few over and over, but over the years! One short story I read early in my study made me realise you read things how you wish to see them at the time. I’ll explain, I read a short story and thought it quite quaint, nothing spectacular bit sad at the end. Then I studied it, I re read it with new knowledge and realised it was deeply racist, and upsetting, I truly do not know why I missed that the first time round, shamed to admit it actually. I guess I read what I wanted to, and ignored the bits I didn’t understand. I think if you re read books later you will see them differently, dependant upon your place at the time…deep huh!

    • Pete Denton says:

      That’s a good point, Christie. Reading something again and reading as a writer puts the different slant on why you’re reading. I do feel that I read books differently now. I like how they did that, or I would have done it like this.

      As Robin said earlier, ‘what works for one doesn’t always work for another.’ could be the same for reading the same piece with a more critical eye.

  13. I don’t often read a book more than once, and as some others have said, if I do, it has to be a long time after the first reading. The book I have read the most times is probably Silas Marner – it was the book we did for our English literature O’Level at school, and so we read it several times inside out and back to front at school, and I really liked it then. I’ve read it two or three times since then and seen it with different eyes each time. I think I’ve read Pride and Prejudice three times also. Other than that, as a teen, I used to re-read books several times; I think it was the comforting familiarity I enjoyed during those turbulent teen years!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Vanessa. My teens were about being out of the house playing football or *hanging about* doing nothing much at all. I doubt I read any books back then. 🙂

      Different eyes is a good point. I now find myself reading as a writer so would look to different things in the books I re-read than when I first read them. Also I agree about the time gap in between reads. Good food for thought.

  14. Yes, I read books more than once. I often get so excited in reading a good book, that I’ll accidentally skip words. I find there’s stuff I missed the first time around. Also, I never outgrew the “read it a billion times” phase of childhood, I just like more interesting and complex stories now 🙂

    I’ve read most of t he Harry Potter series 5+ times (not the last few books, because I did most of my re-reading in anticipation of the next release). Don’t judge, but I enjoyed the Twilight Saga and have read each of those books at least twice. There are some spots the author handles in ways I like, so I’ve re-read those sections numerous times trying to figure out what I like about them so I can learn a bit about writing.

    I’m going to start re-reading the Dresden Files books, because the series has gotten soooo long I’m starting to forget things that come up (and I’m sure I missed some stuff at the beginning). And, yeah, they’re fun too. Some great one-liners in each book.

    There are also some stand-alone books I’ve read multiple times. Some pieces of historical fiction in particular. I find that those I appreciate differently as I age and have a better understanding of history/culture/places.

    A good story IS like comfy shoes or old jeans.

    That said, I doubt I’ll ever re-read The Lord of the Rings (unless a child asks me to read it) because, despite being “the bestest” I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

    • Pete Denton says:

      No judgements here, Shannon 🙂

      I can see the merits in re-reading a book before another in the series is released. I do that with films and have done that with TV so makes sense.

      Dresden Files have been recommended to me a couple of times. I might have to delve into those. I’ve never read LOTR, maybe one day.

  15. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I don’t reread either, except for a handful of books I read in highschool after enough time had elapsed to forgive my English teacher for tearing them apart. My memory is pretty good so rereading doesn’t work for me. I’ve watched the entire Buffy series about 6 times though LOL

  16. Jackie Paulson says:

    I can read books over and over but shawS Redemption is by far one of my favorites that I own. I also love The Hunt for the red october!!! I own it too. I love this topic great responses to it. Loved to visit today….. Happy weekend coming!

  17. daphneshadows says:

    Everyone I know re-reads books they love. I’ve never done so, not even with my favorite novels or series. I have no clue why though.

  18. I’ve only read one book more than once: “How To Use Your Time Wisely” by Phyllis Kaufman and Arnold Corrigan. It’s just a hundred pages or so but packed with great information. I keep about ten copies on hand to give as graduation presents, new business presents, wedding presents, etc.

  19. Millie Ho says:

    I’ve read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy more than once, just because I didn’t realize it was an ostensible children’s story the first time.

    Also, it is a fascinating tale!

  20. katkasia says:

    I re-read lots of books – actually every time we have to thin out the library, I can’t bear to part with those which have become good friends, or which I know I’ll re-read. Others are great books, but I don’t want to go there again. My partner however, can’t re-read a book. He has too good a memory, and so it spoils it for him knowing what will happen.

    • Pete Denton says:

      I think that might be why I have never re-read a book. I remember too much about what happened and so why read it again. That argument falls when I re-watch a film and I know most of the dialogue!

      I do keep loads of books to read again and while I don’t want to get rid of them when they look nice on the shelf. Who am I kidding? I won’t read them all again.

  21. Kourtney Heintz says:

    I’ve read several books multiple times. When I was working on my 1st novel and I finally realized I didn’t know how to write a novel, I reread Laurell K Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, and Stephenie Meyer many times. I tried to analyze what was working and why was working and then try to replicate it in my own writing. Sometimes I’d open up a page of Harry Potter to see how JK Rowling put sentences together. I found it a really useful undertaking. 🙂

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Kourtney.

      You raise a great point there. I do find myself reading as a writer now rather than just reading for pleasure. There are certain books where particular chapters stay with me for some reason, the action, drama, dialogue or characterisation. I should re-read more to see why that chapter worked. Might help my writing too. Thanks 🙂

  22. Steve says:

    Hi Pete,
    The only book I’ve read twice is All The President’s Men. I’ll probably read it one more time before I die. Another book I expect I’ll read again someday is The Grapes of Wrath. But those are the only two books I’ve ever considered repeating. And now that you mention it, I don’t know why that is either. Like you, I’ve watched certain movies multiple times and I have listened to the same music again and again. So why not books?

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Steve.

      It does make you wonder why we would watch TV or films multiple times and not read the same book twice. Maybe it’s because you can put a film on that you’ve seen just to have as background noise. You don’t have to fully watch it as you know what happens. You’re more invested in a book. I don’t like to skip anything in a book so need to concentrate fully 🙂

  23. Justin Bog says:

    I read books twice, sometimes more — in awe of the writing most of the time. To see how authors figure different things out, from characterization to twists in narrative. I don’t even want to admit how many times I read The Shining, Pork and Other Stories, To Kill a Mockingbird, Crime and Punishment, Ghost Story, The Lottery, Mrs. Caliban. Okay, maybe I do – hehe. I hear about kids who have read the Harry Potter books or the Robert Jordan titles dozens of times and this makes me happy. Some fans have told me they’re read the stories in my latest, Sandcastles and Other Stories, more than once, and I am humbled too. Reading more than once helps me see things I may have missed, different layers. Nothing like it, and books are a more intimate experience than other entertainment choices. You’re holding the work in your hand; sensory touch, even with a kindle, makes the work of the imagination a bit better. Great post, Pete.

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